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Robot Monster

Entry updated 10 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1953; vt Monsters from Mars). Three Dimension Pictures. Directed by Phil Tucker. Written by Wyott Ordung. Cast includes Claudia Barrett, George Barrows, John Brown, Gregory Moffett, John Mylong, George Nader, Pamela Paulson and Selena Royle. 66 minutes. Black and white.

A boy named Johnny (Moffett) wearing a space helmet with air tubes is playing with a girl named Carla (Paulson), who wants to play house instead, but it soon transpires that they, and the human race, are in a desperate situation: a "Ro-Man" from the Moon (Barrows), who resembles a gorilla wearing a space helmet, has killed almost all of Earth's population with a Death Ray, and only eight people have survived, kept alive by a special antibiotic developed by one survivor, a Scientist (Mylong). The Ro-Man has soon killed four of the remaining humans, including the girl, but he has fallen in love with one of the women, Alice (Barrett), and he delays killing the other survivors. His superior Ro-Man (John Brown) then kills him and takes over the effort, unleashing Dinosaurs and threatening to move Earth into another Dimension. However, it turns out that all of these events are only Johnny's dream, although as he walks away we observe a Ro-Man emerging from the darkness.

This is regularly reviled as one of the worst sf films ever made; the usual focus of bemused critical commentaries is the way that director Tucker, unable to afford a convincing robot costume, bizarrely decided that a man in a gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet would be an appropriate, and economical, substitute. Still, it is hard to keep laughing at the film, given its singularly unpleasant plot, which includes the Ro-Man's disturbing murder of an adorable little girl as one step toward the impending extinction of the human race. The concluding device of presenting the story as a boy's dream, though perhaps one about to come true, is borrowed from Invaders from Mars (1953), which had been released a few months earlier. [GW]


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